Watching liberals trying to explain conservatives to other liberals is, a Jonah Goldberg once observed, a Gorillas in the Mist phenomenon. It is as though a scientist is describing the behavior or an alien species and imputing their own explanation of what causes the species to behave as it does. When the conservative subspecies is religious the outcome is even more hilarious. This is what you can readily observe with the reaction of the left to the reaction Ted Cruz received at Liberty University this week.
For reasons unknown to anyone but the person that hired her, a chick named Elizabeth Stoker Bruening has become the “go-to” person whenever it is necessary to explain religious people, particularly conservative ones, to the very liberal and very un-churched (I would say atheist) audience of The New Republic. When Ted Cruz announced his candidacy to an enthusiastic audience of mostly Evangelical Christians at Liberty University, Ms. Bruening took on the job of explaining why Ted Cruz was going to have trouble winning over Evangelicals.
To do this, Buening relies on a variety of early polls:
After winning the annual Values Voter presidential straw poll by 42 percent in 2013, Cruz won only 25 percent in 2014, followed closely by Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee. Given the Values Voter Summit’s reflective power when it comes to religious conservatives, Cruz’s precipitous drop in proportions is notable.
More damningly: Cruz didn’t stand out in a report released by Public Policy Polling this February that surveyed Republicans on 2016 hopefuls as well as a slew of party issues, including Christian-oriented ones. When asked whether or not Christianity should be made the “national religion,” for example, a whopping 94 percent of Huckabee fans said they would support such a mandate; only 51 percent of Cruz supporters said so, lower than the GOP base support level of 57 percent.
I’ve been doing this blogging gig for a while, maybe too long, but I have never heard anyone advocate making Christianity the “national religion.” I think Christianity should have pride of place among religions in America. I think Christian religious symbols and references should be visible in public places. But there is a Constitution thing — it’s over a hundred years old and no one understands it — that prevents a national religion. I’m not sure how “dammingly” this bit of trolling the right by PPP is.
Moreover, Bruening apparently thinks that any religious person is a “Evangelical Christian.” As proof of how unliked Cruz is she reports:
If Evangelicals find themselves disinterested in Cruz’s Christian pitch, they may have good reasons. Last September at a gala event hosted by the organization In Defense of Christians (IDC), Ted Cruz took the stage not to extend his sympathies to international Christian leaders gathered to represent persecuted Christians abroad, but rather to bash them for not supporting Israel. He was subsequently booed off the stage.
This, as they say, isn’t even wrong. It is completely bizarre. This is the story that she links to:
At its core, Cruz’s problem was one of context. First, he pinned his remarks to the conflict between Israel and Hamas when one of the group’s primary agenda points was actually the plight of Iraqi Christians. Second, Christians are far from a monolithic group, especially when it comes to views on policy on Israel and the Middle East. The American evangelicals Cruz typically addresses tend to be worlds apart historically, culturally, theologically, and politically from the Christian leaders in attendance (italics mine).
More amusing is the often-wrong-never-in-doubt Greg Sargent who claims Ted Cruz can’t win Evangelicals because, wait for it, he opposed comprehensive immigration reform.
So here’s something worth watching: How will the GOP primary debate over immigration reform, in particular, play among these voters?
One basic fact about immigration reform that continues to get lost in the noise is that evangelical Christians support it. Religion writer Sarah Posner recently reported on polling showing that a majority of evangelicals want Congress to pass immigration reform and support a path to citizenship. Evangelical leaders played a major (if largely ignored) role in the failed push for reform last year.
Not being of the left, I believe voters are individuals, not part of some monolithic collective that requires people of a certain age, sex, race, class, religion, etc. to all behave the same way. But the opinion that Cruz will not win large numbers of Evangelicals in the primary, and if he wins the nomination, see record numbers of Evangelicals turn out for him is sadly mistaken. In fact, of the field of GOP contenders, Ted Cruz is probably the only one with a real base among Evangelical Christians — no, I don’t think Mike Huckabee is going to give up his lucrative anti-diabetes product gig to run. The fact that the left is going to such self-beclowning extremes to convince themselves that Ted Cruz can’t win with Evangelicals is a good sign that they know he will.